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"Employee voice" is a key to a successful business, says Nita Clarke

In this changing business world, unleashing and releasing employee voice is essential in developing the economic growth we all want to see, according to Nita Clarke, director of the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA) and vice-chair of the MacLeod review on employee engagement.

Speaking at the launch of report Releasing voice for sustainable business success in London yesterday, Clarke talked of the importance of employee voice in an organisation.

Clarke said: "Voice is extremely important because there are many changing business concepts and one of the essential ones is trust.

"A lot of the old management paradigms of command and hierarchy are not fit for purpose and the voice is one of the things we need to really think about to change that old paradigm and bring trust back in our organisation."

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The report by think tank Tomorrow's Company, employment relations firm IPA and professional services firm Towers Watson, states that having a voice really matters for employees today.

It found citizens are increasingly expected to be able to speak freely and honestly and to be listened to and taken seriously. The report claims if voice matters to citizens and is important to society, then voice also matters in our companies and organisations.

However, the report also states that there aren't many companies that have found ways of encouraging and supporting employees to speak up.

Clarke said at the event: "If you have effective employee voice you will know what is going on in your organisation.

"Silent working is one of the greatest challenges to engagement."

At the event Clarke also talked about the importance of having a "social voice" but said that many companies are afraid to encourage this. She said: "It causes panic and many companies are like rabbits in headlights when it comes to social media and creating that social voice."

She added: "Companies are actually trying to ban it, which is nuts."

Some of the key findings in the report include:

· Voice is the foundation of sustainable business success. It increases employee engagement, enables effective decision-making and drives innovation.

· Voice is about both culture and structures; first you need to get the culture right, then you need to provide the processes and channels through which voice can be expressed.

· Authenticity and trust are essential. Employees will only speak up when they feel safe and when they know their opinions are both valued and will be acted on.

· Organisations need to use a variety of channels to access employee voice, and ensure they support both the individual and collective voice of employees.

· There is some unease about voice and social media; seven in ten organisations either forbid or discourage the use of social media to express opinions about the company.

Also speaking at the event were HR director of logistics provider, Unipart, John Greatrex and chief executive of Tomorrow's Company, Tony Manwaring.

Greatrex said: "With a lot of this, companies need to know that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. It's just about getting a voice in all areas of your organisation."

He added: "If you want to get news these days, you don't just listen to the radio."

Manwaring said: "Without voice, value cannot be created. Value is not only created through people, it is co-created through people inspired by a common purpose, working to shared values, inspired and engaged, giving more of themselves to a common and shared endeavor"